Friday, February 12, 2010

A paradise for fans of the Showtime Lakers

A guy on youtube named nonplayerzealot4 (not his given name) possesses a treasure trove of old Lakers videos. Every few weeks he'll post another new gem, an old game or a clip that brings back great memories from the 1980s, when the players wore obscenely short shorts and the teams routinely scored 120 points. 

His page is here

Lakers fans should visit frequently, as there are videos from the past and present. Any fans of that era should visit frequently. Celtics fans might want to avoid it, although I'm sure there are plenty of youtube videos devoted to the antics of Larry, Chief, M.L. Carr and other hated men in green. 

Some personal favorites, from his collection of more than 100 videos:

If you don't want to watch the entire 10-minute video, fast-forward to about the 9-minute mark. This was a game from 1988, Lakers at Nuggets early in the year. The game goes to two overtimes. These old Nugget teams could be troublesome, with offensive stars like Alex English playing in Doug Moe's fast-paced system. Especially at home - cue announcers droning on about the effects of the higher altitude - Denver thrived. The ending of this game is one of Magic Johnson's most memorable moments, a game-winning 3 at the buzzer under heavy pressure. It's not the type of shot Magic often hit. He became a standout 3-point shooter later in his career, but most were set shots that came off of passes from the post. He didn't have Kobe's ability to simply pull up with ease from 24-feet out. But he drains this one off the dribble.

The Nuggets had taken a one-point lead with three seconds left when Danny Schayes, who normally played like a stiff and a poster child for NBA nepotism, made a superb up-and-under move that would have impressed McHale or Hakeem.

I listened to this game on the radio. As I've written before, Denver, weirdly, played on a radio station that I could pick up in south-Central Minnesota. It made no sense. Sometimes their signal was clearer than WCCO in the Twin Cities, which often crackled as I listened to Twins games. I listened to this one in my bedroom and my parents' bedroom, alternating because I had to switch radios if one lost the signal. It had Denver announcers, which made their crushing disappointment even more enjoyable.

The Lakers win by an absurd 148-146 score.

Game 4, 1989 Western Conference semifinals. The Lakers led 3-0, as they continued their quest for a third straight championship in Kareem's final season. Seattle - led by Dale Ellis and the bald Xavier McDaniel - come out blazing. They led 32-12 after the first quarter. Early in the second quarter, Seattle led 43-14. Twenty-nine points! Many teams facing 3-0 deficits prevail in Game 4, especially if they jump out to an early lead. The team with the series advantage is often content to take the series back home to clinch. But the Lakers ate away at the lead. They finally catch Seattle in the fourth quarter and earn the sweep.

The Lakers swept the first three series that year. After dispatching Seattle, they crushed an up-and-coming Phoenix squad. They advanced to the Finals, to face Detroit for the second straight season. The Lakers were 11-0 in the playoffs while Detroit had a tough six-game battle with the Bulls in the ECF. As a 14-year-old, I had full confidence that a third straight title was at hand.

Then Pat Riley decided the Lakers needed a week of tough practices so they wouldn't get rusty. He apparently didn't trust that five-time champions would be able to prepare themselves with such a layoff. It's a decision that continues to haunt Lakers fans. Byron Scott hurt his hamstring. He missed the whole series. In Game 1, Detroit's guards dominated. But in Game 2, Magic came out aggressive on offense and the Lakers took a double-digit lead. By the third quarter, Detroit had made its way back into the game. As Magic sprinted downcourt, he pulled up lame. The only thing missing was the announcer solemnly saying he acted "like he got shot." There's a famous shot of him pulling away from Lakers trainer Gary Vitti. Magic knows he hurt his hamstring. He knows the team's dreams of a three-peat ended and that Riley deserved as much blame as two bulky hamstrings. Or maybe that's just what I was thinking.

I'm still bitter about that series 21 years later. I'm not asking for an asterisk by the Detroit title, as injuries are certainly part of the game. But I would like all Detroit fans to stop whining about the 1988 Finals, which many claim Detroit would have won if Isiah had not sprained his ankle in the second half of Game 6. He was hobbled in Game 7, a Lakers victory.

The Lakers got swept, so it seems hard to claim the Lakers had a superior team. But think about this: in each of the last three games, the Lakers had a lead in the fourth quarter. Game 2 and Game 3 came down to the final five seconds. But instead of Magic at point, the Lakers had...David Rivers at point guard. Instead of Byron Scott, they had an unproven, pre-Timberwolf Tony Campbell. Think Magic might have fared better in the fourth quarter than David Rivers?

Yes, still very bitter.

This is the first meeting between the Lakers and Wolves. They played in the Metrodome, where the Wolves would set NBA attendance marks as the Minnesota masses swarmed the stadium for a glimpse of the left-handed genius of Brad Lohaus. There were probably 10,000 good seats in the joint, and 20,000 bad ones. But they kept bringing the fans in, no matter how few victories the team racked up.

This video has the Lakers broadcasters, which means the legendary Chick Hearn and a muted Stu Lantz. Today Lantz talks nearly nonstop on Lakers broadcasts as he often dominates play-by-play man Joel Meyers. But with Chick, Lantz apparently had the speaking abilities of Boo Radley. This is another game I remember listening to on the radio (with all of the games I remember on the radio, I feel like a child of the '50s). This game wasn't televised in Janesville, why I don't know. So I listened to Kevin Harlan, a then-young announcer who went on to become one of the top announcers in the country. But he was unknown when he took over the job for the initial season of Timberwolves basketball. His screams, exclamations, grunts, and jokes helped Wolves fans survive the first decade of irrelevance. He eventually took over TV duties, but here he manned the radio. While I'd eventually enjoy his hysterics, they annoyed me in this game, as the Wolves came out and blitzed the Lakers early. The Lakers fight their way back, tie it on a late shot by Magic and win in OT.

Tony Campbell, who'd struggled in the 1989 Finals with Magic and Scott out, became a star this first season with Minnesota. If he'd played like this in the '89 Finals, the Lakers might have won a couple of games.

As I said, still bitter.

This is a three-minute compilation from a game against the Sonics. It was late in the 1987 season and features a team many consider the greatest in Lakers history. They won 65 games and the title. Showtime was still in full force, although it had slowed down some from the early 1980s. By the next season they broke out the fastbreak destruction on a more selective basis, as everyone's legs - from Magic to Worthy's - had lost just a bit of speed. But this is Showtime at its finest, a highly enjoyable display of passing and unselfishness. Yes, Magic has numerous incomparable passes. Anyone who wonders what Showtime was all about should watch this video, because it's all there. No-look passes by Magic. Worthy, Green and Cooper filling the lane with the precision coaches dream about when they sketch out fastbreak drills to run in practice. Forty-foot bounce passes by Magic, the ones where he threw the ball hard into the ground, as if he was spiking a football after a 60-yard touchdown run. Kareem - the 40-year-old Kareem - running the court like a begoggled, elderly Usain Bolt. A.C. Green blowing layups. It's all there.

Another from 1987. Here the Lakers face the lowly Suns. It begins with a clip of Kareem hitting his first career 3-pointer a game earlier. Magic sat this one out with a minor injury. An early highlight is Chick's commentary. He rips the Lakers. Disgusted with them, he demands that Pat Riley put some new players on the court, guys who "want to play." Another reason Lakers fans loved Chick. He was never afraid to call out the Lakers, no matter how many titles they'd won. This game turns into a Kareem exhibition. If you watch nothing else, go to the 8-minute mark, where Kareem knocks away a pass, scoops up the ball and dribbles coast-to-coast for a clinching slam dunk. 

Those are just a few of the classics to bide fans over during the All-Star break. There are dozens of others, like battles against Portland in the 1991 playoffs and the infamous game in 1987 against the Kings, when the Laker scored the first 29 points of the game and led 40-4 after one quarter, the type of score you usually only see in a junior-high girls basketball game. 

And so ends this session of Lakers propaganda.


rbeer said...

that dunk by McKey at 8:09 is awesome.

Shawn Fury said...

McKey was like frickin' Shawn Kemp in some of those clips. A young, still-childless Shawn Kemp.